Radiation therapy, aka radiotherapy, is a frequently utilized treatment for many types of cancer. Radiation is a form of high energy discharged in particles or waves.
Radiation administered at high doses destroys or prevents multiplication of cancer cells by damaging their DNA. But, some of your healthy cells may get blasted along the way.
This loss is what leads to an array of radiotherapy’s side effects, such as:
- hair loss
- dry eyes
- dry mouth
- low blood counts
- early menopause
- flu like symptoms
- nausea & vomiting
- vaginal tenderness
- shortness of breath
- skin dryness, death
- inflamed esophagus
- shed outer layer of skin
- painful, burning, sore skin
- loss of taste, metallic taste
- difficult, painful swallowing
- infection susceptibility increase
- intestinal tract swelling, inflammation
Which side effects you’ll experience depends where you receive radiation, dosage and how often. Radiation therapy to your brain may cause brain function side effects, like:
The method that helps limit healthy cell loss is reduced dosages and spreading radiation treatment over time. And a good percentage of your health benefiting cells will recover.
The goals of radiation therapy are to:
- shrink tumors
- kill cancer cells
- prevent cancer’s return
- temporarily relieves symptoms
- treat cancer tumors that are not removable by surgery
Radiotherapy may be used in complement to tumor removal surgery and chemotherapy. Or in some cases, radiation is the only treatment required.
Radiation therapy is put to work in treating numerous forms of cancer, just to name a few:
- oral cancer
- multiple myeloma
- soft tissue sarcomas
There are a couple of avenues radiotherapy for cancer treatment can be delivered:
- systemic ~ radioactive material taken by mouth or injected
- external ~ radiation rays aimed directly at tumor from outside
- internal (brachy therapy) ~ implanted radioactive seeds placed near or in tumor
Which method is employed depends on your type of cancer. And sometimes more than one form of radiation therapy is administered.
Radiation does cause cancer and occasionally secondary malignancies do happen several years down the road.